- The U.S. Department of Labor has launched an online dialogue with stakeholders to solicit ideas for improving access to registered apprenticeships for members of marginalized communities. The effort will close Nov. 29.
- Through the initiative — co-hosted by several of the department's subagencies — DOL will collect ideas and comments related to outreach and communication, addressing barriers and private sector partnerships.
- "This dialogue is part of an ongoing discussion we need to have to help us diversify and expand the apprenticeship system so that employers, labor partners, workers and students from all communities understand and benefit from Registered Apprenticeships," Acting Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Angela Hanks said in a statement.
Expanding apprenticeship access and improving their diversity has been a priority for the anency since the Biden Administration took charge earlier this year.
In February, the president called for the reinstatement of the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships, in part to increase apprenticeship access to "Black and brown Americans, immigrants, and women." And in March, DOL made $87.5 million available in grants to expand apprenticeship programs — with $40 million of that earmarked for states that would "implement required diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and demonstrate their commitment to adopt, expand and promote these efforts."
Apprenticeships have struggled during the pandemic, with companies cutting back on person-to-person engagement. In 2020, the registered apprenticeship program experienced a 12% decline due to COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
While 2021 data has yet to be released, President Biden suggested recently that apprenticeships may play a key role in the implementation of recent infrastructure acts. "Since apprenticeships are central to supporting the investments made in the American Rescue Plan and the Build Back Better Agenda, I have proposed we invest in high-quality job training and Registered Apprenticeships in fast-growing sectors like health care, child care, advanced manufacturing, information technology, and clean energy," he stated in a Nov. 12 proclamation on National Apprenticeship Week. Between aggressive hiring, investments and legislative actions this year, registered apprenticeship participation may see an uptick, particularly for women and people of color; however, given shakeups to the workforce caused by burnout and the Great Resignation, it will be hard to predict until DOL releases the numbers.
In addition to federal action, many organizations have made efforts over the past year to increase the diversity of their employee pipeline. A New York law office launched a diversity fellowship program this summer, for example, and an information technology provider more recently joined an apprenticeship diversity initiative.